February oozes sex. The bitter chill that sets in nudges people into the warm embrace of another and Valentine’s Day practically plants people in each other’s bedrooms.
It’s also when Gallery 1313, located at 1313 Queen Street West, celebrates all that is sex with its Sex Show exhibition, which runs through Sunday.
Phil Anderson, the gallery’s curator, seeks to amass pieces that investigate sexuality from multiple angles and through an assortment of mediums.
“The idea is to encompass as many different variations of what people consider sexual. It’s always a sort of eclectic mix,” he said.
The exhibition, which is in its fifth year, features work from more than 20 artists. The artists showing this year come from Toronto, New York, Montreal, and Ottawa.
Olga Szkabarnicki, the sole artist in the exhibition from Ottawa, is showing three pieces: Pride I, Pride II, and Titanic. Each piece takes the male body as its subject.
“I wanted to explore the theme of male identity and sexuality in the context of Pride – going from the homo to the hetero and everything in between and beyond,” she said.
Pride II is an oil on canvas painting of a nude muscular man bending over and reaching for a face on the ground. Szkabarnicki said the imagery is challenging for viewers, but that she derives a sense of pleasure from being able to test her audience.
Tara Mazurk, the curator of Humber College’s L Space gallery, hasn’t seen the exhibition but reiterates the role of art in urging viewers to think critically about tough subjects.
“Now that we’ve opened up new topics of feminism and sexuality, artists are more open to exploring those themes in a comfortable environment or not a comfortable environment where they can actually challenge the viewer and get us to think more critically about what the human body actually means,” she said.
J.P. Guarraci is a Toronto-based artist and is also showing three pieces in the exhibition. His pieces challenge the viewer to confront notions of male objectivity.
“With mass media, there’s a lot of images of masculinity and they bombard your mind and you have to sort of filter through what you take away from these images to create your own sense of masculinity. It becomes a question of, can sexuality exist without objectification?” he said.
Anderson hopes the exhibition generates discussion about sexuality, but with an eye to sensitivity.
“We’re not out to offend people. People are taking all kinds of different approaches to trying to say something about sex or what goes on during sex. Hopefully it creates some conversation,” he said.
Aside from the discussion the exhibition may elicit, the artists are elated to be part of the show.
“It’s exciting. It’s the first time that I’m showing in Toronto, and to be on Queen Street West, what an honour, what a thrill. It feels great,” Szkabarnicki said.
Guarraci expresses similar feelings.
“Everything looks really good so I’m very happy to be part of it,” he said.
The exhibition showcases work in textile, sculpture, photography, painting, and film.
The exhibition is free and runs until Sunday. It’s open to audiences each day from1 p.m. to 6 p.m.